Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On This Day in History: Launching of USS Maine (ACR-1)

Today marks the 125th anniversary of the launching of USS Maine (ACR-1) at the New York Navy Yard. Displacing 6,682 tons, Maine was rated as a second-class battleship and incorporated some of the latest design elements seen in European navies. Her main armament consisted of four 10" guns mounted in two turrets offset from the centerline. This arrangement allowed all four guns to fire ahead or astern, greatly reducing the threat posed by an enemy who performed a "crossing the T" maneuver.

Maine operated off the East Coast of the United States and in the Carribean four almost three years before her fateful voyage to Cuba in early 1898. On the evening of 15 February, an explosion rocked the ship and sank her in minutes, resulting in the deaths of 260 crew members (6 more died later from their injuries). In 1912, the Army Corps of Engineers raised the wreck of the Maine to allow naval investigators to perform a thorough inspection of the hull. They also recovered artifacts such as this steel rivet and sighting glass (used to show water levels inside a tank or boiler), then sent them back to the United States where they became popular souvenir items.

Artifacts pictured

Model of USS Maine                               
Gift of Kenneth L. Waters to the Naval War College Foundation

Steel Rivet from wreck of USS Maine
Gift of Joseph J. MacDougald to the Naval War College Foundation

Sighting Glass from wreck of USS Maine
Gift of Charles Slocum to the Naval War College Foundation

Friday, November 7, 2014

On This Day in History: Battle of Port Royal, SC

                                Carte de visite, Rear Admiral Samuel F. Dupont
                                On loan from Ambassaodor J. William Middendorf II

On this day in 1861, the U.S. Navy, Army, and Marine Corps carried out one of the early joint operations of the Civil War. Under the command of Flag Officer Samuel F. DuPont (nephew of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, founder of the DuPont chemical company), a force consisting of 77 ships and over 12,500 soldiers attacked two forts guarding the entrance to Port Royal Sound and forced the surrender of the Confederate defenders. Employing a tactic that had already proven successful a few months earlier at Hatteras Inlet, DuPont’s ships sailed in an elliptical pattern between Forts Walker and Beauregard and bombarded both as they came in to range. Aiding the attackers was the fact that the forts were separated by a three-mile-wide channel and were not in mutually supporting positions. Fire from the Union ships steadily reduced both forts and after four hours of fighting, the Confederates abandoned their defenses. A small landing party of Marines went ashore to assume control of the forts before handing them over to Army Brigadier General Horatio Wright’s brigade.

DuPont won praise for his successful attack and was promoted to rear admiral the following July. Convinced of his abilities, the Navy sent him nine new ironclad warships and ordered him to assault the city of Charleston in 1863. Unfortunately for DuPont, the ironclads lacked the firepower to seriously damage coastal fortifications and were forced to withdraw after an unsuccessful bombardment. DuPont subsequently fell out of favor with the Department of the Navy and was replaced as commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron by Rear Admiral John Dahlgren. He died in 1865 and is buried in the du Pont family cemetery (Samuel was the only member of the family to capitalize the ‘d’) in Greeneville, DE.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Artifact Spotlight: Portrait of Lieutenant William B. Cushing

                                  Lieutenant William B. Cushing (1842-1874), portrait undated
                                  Artist unknown
                                  Gift of Ambassador J. William Middendorf II

Civil War naval buffs probably recognize Lieutenant William B. Cushing from his daring exploit on the Roanoke River in October 1864. On this evening 150 years ago, Cushing led 22 men in two small boats on a mission to sink CSS Albemarle, an ironclad that was positioned to stop Union forces from penetrating further inland.

One of Cushing’s boats was a steam launch outfitted with a spar torpedo that he planned to detonate after drawing up next to Albemarle. His approach did not go undetected, though, as sentries on the shore spotted the steam launch and began firing at the Union men. Albemarle was also protected by floating log booms, but they had been in the water so long that they were covered with a heavy slime which allowed Cushing’s boat to ride up and over them.

Finally, when he was close enough, Cushing detonated the torpedo which blew a hole in Albemarle right at the waterline and sank her immediately. The force of the explosion severely damaged the steam launch as well, forcing Cushing’s men to swim for shore and attempt to evade Confederate patrols. Of the crew on the steam launch, eleven were captured and two drowned. Only Cushing and one other man escaped back to Union lines. 26 years later, the Navy named its first ocean-going torpedo boat after Cushing. A model of USS Cushing (TB-1) is currently on display in the torpedo station gallery.

                                   Model of USS Cushing (TB-1)
                                   Built by Pasquale J. Bianco of Cranston, RI

Friday, October 24, 2014

Artifact Spotlight: Captain John Winslow Portrait, c.1870

                                                      Rear Admiral John A. Winslow (1811-1873), c.1870
                                                      Artist unknown
                                                      Gift of Ambassador J. William Middendorf II
One of our most recent acquisitions is this portrait from the collection of Ambassador John William Middendorf II. The officer pictured is Rear Admiral John Winslow, best known as the commanding officer of USS Kearsarge, the ship that sank the Confederate raider CSS Alabama during the Civil War. Before taking command of Kearsarge, then-Captain Winslow spent much of 1861 and 1862 on the Mississippi River where he assisted Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote in fitting out Union gunboats. 152 years ago today, while in command of USS Baron de Kalb (formerly named St. Louis), Winslow found himself conducting a small-scale amphibious operation while patrolling a section of the river in Arkansas. As he later described to the commanding officer of the Western Gunboat Flotilla, Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter:
“A report having reached me yesterday that a small party of guerrillas had entered the town of Hopefield, opposite to this vessel, I dispatched Mr. Medill (carpenter), with 25 men, to capture the party. On gaining the bank by our men, the guerillas took to flight, when a pursuit followed by such of the men as had procured horses by impressment. The guerrillas were followed up for some 8 or 9 miles, at the end of which they were all captured.” - Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion.
Winslow was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1870 and commanded the Pacific Squadron for two years before retiring. When he died in Boston in 1873, his coffin was draped with the battle flag of the Kearsarge. Two ships in the U.S. Navy have been named USS Winslow in his honor: TB-5, a torpedo boat from the Spanish-American War, and DD-53, an O’Brien class destroyer that served during WWI.

Monday, September 15, 2014

VADM Colbert's legacy to the Naval War College

You don’t see many vice admirals walking around wearing hard hats…..but then again, VADM Richard G. Colbert liked to do things his own way. Upon his appointment as the 35th President of the Naval War College in 1968, Colbert set about modernizing the College by changing the curriculum, founding the Naval Staff College for foreign officers, establishing the Naval War College Foundation, and beginning construction of three new academic buildings. He wore this hard hat at the ground breaking ceremony for Spruance, Conolly, and Hewitt Halls in 1970. This expansion allowed the College to increase its student enrollment which in turn made it possible for more line officers to attend.

VADM Richard G. Colbert, oil on canvas by Anthony Sarro
Colbert’s interest in international cooperation among senior naval leaders led him to found another program that is still with us today. This week, the College is preparing to kick off the 21st International Seapower Symposium. Begun in 1969 and held every two years since (last year’s Symposium was postponed due to the government shutdown), the ISS fosters greater cooperation among the world’s naval powers by bringing together officers and diplomats from all over the world to discuss issues that affect the security of maritime nations. It was one of several long-range projects that VADM Colbert initiated to shift the Naval War College’s focus to a more outward-looking, international program that emphasized common interests among the navies of the free world.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

New Arrival: Doll House of Quarters AA

Like most museums, people frequently contact us about donating items to our collection. Every once in a while, we get a piece of history that is so unique we just have to share some pictures with you!

VADM John A. Baldwin, Jr. served as the President of the Naval War College from 1986-87. His wife, Leslie, enjoyed making doll house furniture and hired a modeler to make this beautiful model of the President's House, also known as Quarters AA. The house is approximately 53 inches long and includes the main building as well as the two wings on either end. Although there is no furniture, the interior does feature two fireplaces, finished windows, curtains and wallpaper in some of the rooms. The interior walls are removable and can be configured in many different ways.

Before we put the house on display, we asked Alexandra Allardt of ArtCare Resources to come in and give the house a little polishing up to make all the details really stand out. We think she did a great job and are looking forward to putting this one-of-a-kind artifact on exhibit soon!

To see the full albums of photos, visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/navalwarcollegemuseum

Friday, June 20, 2014

Artifact Spotlight: "On Target"

Continuing our selection of artwork from Fire and Ice: Combat Art from the Korean War, we present a print of the cruiser USS Los Angeles (CA-135) by Herbert C. Hahn.

Los Angeles arrived off the coast of South Korea in May 1951 to serve as the flagship for Cruiser Division 5 under the command of Rear Admiral Arleigh A. Burke. Her guns were employed in shelling enemy coastal positions for the next six months. In December, Los Angeles returned to the United States for overhaul and training. She deployed to Korea a second time in October 1952 and immediately went into action shelling enemy bunkers and observation posts near Koji-ni. Gunfire support missions typically involved little danger to the ship since her guns had sufficient range to allow her to remain well off shore, but in April 1953 she received minor damage from a North Korean shore battery. Los Angeles continued operating in the area until the end of the month and then returned to her home port of Long Beach, California.

Fire and Ice: Combat Art from the Korean War is on display at the Naval War College Museum through December 30th.